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Scottish company loses 2004 fatal explosion compensation case

27 September 2013

The owners of a plastics factory where a blast caused the loss of nine lives have lost a legal battle to force one of its suppliers to pay them compensation. ICL Plastics Ltd wanted Johnston Oils to make a contribution to the payments made to those who were injured in the May 2004 blast at the Stockline factory in Maryhill, Glasgow.

Johnston Oils supplied ICL Plastics with LPG, which was used in the manufacturing process at Stockline. The LPG was stored in underground pipes which leaked due to their poor condition. Health and safety experts concluded that the leaks from the pipes caused the explosion.

Lawyers acting for ICL wanted Johnston Oils to take some of the responsibility for the explosion, telling the Court of Session that Johnston Oils had a duty to inspect and maintain the faulty pipes.

However, judges disagreed saying the plant owners were responsible for the upkeep of the pipes.

In a written judgment issued at the Court of Session on September 25, judge Lord Hodge said Stockline bosses had previously ignored warnings about the conditions of the underground pipes.

He wrote: "I am not persuaded that the pursuers have established that, if Johnston Oils had advised them in 1998 or 2002 to investigate the state of the underground pipes, they would have acted in a way which would have averted the tragedy."

The ICL Plastics factory exploded on May 11, 2004. Nine people were killed, including two company directors. A total of 33 people were injured, 15 of them seriously. Experts concluded that the blast happened because of LPG leaking from underground pipes. The presence of LPG in the air caused the explosion, it was determined.

The Health and Safety Executive had warned ICL about the conditions of its pipes in the years before 1998.

The company went to the Court of Session earlier in 2013 in a bid to recover a contribution from Johnston Oils towards the payment of £191,451 to Archibald Lindsay, a survivor of the explosion. The court heard that the legal action was a "test" case for payments to other people who were caught up in the blast.

Lord Hodge wrote: "The pursuers took no steps to monitor, inspect and maintain the underground pipeline after they received a clear warning from the Health and Safety Executive in 1989.

"It was not the practice of suppliers to give their commercial customers advice on the maintenance of the pipework and gas supply system which the customers owned.

"The central issue in this case is whether the common law duty of care of such suppliers and in particular Johnston Oils for the safety of people in the vicinity of the gas supply system imposed on the suppliers duties to inquire about the condition of the customer's pipework and to give unsolicited advice to the customer to investigate and maintain it.

"I therefore conclude that Johnston Oils did not owe the duties of care to the injured parties on which the pursuers have built their case."


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